Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tell-A-Tale (Part 25): Lost In Transition

Mr. Francis sped all the way from Katunayake to Colombo, via the towns of Ja-Ela and Wattala. He knew that there was not much to be seen in a mere three hours but since that was the most I had (for I did not want to miss dinner), speeding through the narrow, almost organic trunk roads leading to Colombo seemed to be the only option.

"This is Hilton and the World Trade Centre", he said proudly. Into the central business district of Colombo, I can't help but feel the resemblance of this city to New Delhi, or even our very own Kuala Lumpur. From the colonial architecture to the humidity, it was as if I've never left home. But of course, we definitely have more traffic lights and a much better transport system. It grew darker as we approached the coast. Passing through a handful of expensive hotels including the Taj, Holiday Inn and the regal Galle Face, which Mr. Francis termed as "for the Caucasians", we've reached Galle Face Green, an expansive piece of land, not unlike the Dataran Merdeka or the Padang in Singapore. This was the place for hawker food and kite flying, among others but is now apparently closed to the public due to the threatening terrorist activities in the past. With the Taj overlooking the Green, our conversation also included the recent terror attack in Mumbai and agreed that closing the Green may not be such a bad idea afterall. Mr. Francis joked about sneaking me in since tourists are sometimes allowed to enter but the thunderous sound of waves was calling me from the other side.

We hoped to catch the view of the Indian Ocean during sunset. The traffic was unforgiving and before we could find a parking space, the sun was already down. It was rather a consolation that we've actually found a parking space in this hugely congested tourist spot, across the road, near Holiday Inn, thanks to Mr. Francis' friend. In fact, at every corner, we bumped into at least one of his friends and for some strange reason, they were surprised to learn that this guy was from Malaysia and not Japan.

Enjoying the breeze, our conversation was kept minimal. The crowd was overwhelming (or should I say overflowing) but lighting was scarce. Shoulder-to-shoulder in the dark, it may not be the ideal way of appreciating the greatness of the Indian Ocean but it did open up my perspective to the diversity of this city. From veiled Muslim women to the typical fashionable Sinhalese youth, and coupled with the explanation from the guide, it was a brief demographic lesson I truly enjoyed.

Passing through the Fort and the harbour, we've come to the Gangaramaya Temple, which stood for almost 300 years. It's a Buddhist temple that is on every visitor's list.

Somewhat oriental, thanks to the welcoming Heavenly Guards protecting the gates of the temple, it was again, not unlike the Buddhist temples in South East Asia. What distinguishes Sri Lankan temples from the others is the white dome which is usually gilded (like in Thailand and Cambodia, for example). Into the main temple, the sculptures were absolutely fascinating. If the previous visit to the Sistine Chapel had me raving about the artistic ways of the Roman Catholics and appreciating the beauty of Christianity, the Gangaramaya has given me a glimpse of nirwana and the teachings of Buddha, simply through the endless, beautiful statues and paintings.

When Mr. Francis asked if I had enough of the temple, I wished I could say no as there was just so much to see and learn but looking at my watch, I knew it was time to leave as the journey back to the hotel takes about 45 minutes. I certainly didn't want to miss my flight.

On our way back, Mr. Francis showed me areas of the Malay (which I thought he had mistaken for Muslim earlier) and mosques. Here, Islam is very much practiced and I wished I had taken a picture of the majestic Pettah Mosque which was very much similar to St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow, in terms of architecture. We talked more about religions and how Sri Lankans are able to accept and respect the beliefs of others. True enough, the statues of Jesus Christ were placed along the same road as Lord Buddha's. And Mr. Francis, whom had a cross hanging in his car, touched the feet of the monk in Gangaramaya. Sometimes, all it takes is a little respect and we'll have less problems in this world. Shouldn't we be tackling global warming instead?

There were checkpoints along the way. Mr. Francis said that this was a good way to prevent rebels from havocking the city. Inspections were thorough, especially if there were local occupants in the vehicles. In his own words, "soldiers are good. yes, very good". I must say serious-looking, camouflaged men carrying rifles can be very intimidating to say the least. But the helpless me can only hope for the best for myself, and Sri Lanka.

My biggest regret was not having a true Sri Lankan meal when I was there. The dinner was provided by the airline and leant towards the western side, perhaps to suit the tastebuds of international travellers. Still, fried aubergine with dhal sauce and spiced rice with roasted chicken, among others, made up a delicious and sumptuous meal that I liked, especially after an action-packed three hours around Colombo.

Minutes before leaving the Gangaramaya, Mr. Francis asked if I would like to have a talisman from the temple as a form of protection or just a souvenir to keep. I'm not quite sure why I hesitated but when the monk spoke to me and said that it will help me on my journey, I felt (in a state of lost in transition) the connection with the talisman and in a very interesting way, hoped that it will grant me a safe journey ahead, whether to my next destination or just in life.

Yes, hope. Whether in form of a talisman or not, is a great booster that drives us to where we want to be.

For now, I hope for peace in the beautiful Sri Lanka and a good year ahead for everyone.

Oh, and I certainly hope to visit Kandy next time.

27 comments:

Faye fly said...

wat a nice trip ah..the place tat i never think i'l b there one day ..look like u been quite a lot places ah !! make ppl jealous nia@@

backStreetGluttons said...

Off & on we come across decent peace loving people ( the real ones ) who show deep respect for other cultures & religions for aren't these just mere symbols , state of the living...and aspirations of insecure helpless people ( assuming they are not pretending of course ) , living a fantasy insofar as they can enjoy their 3 colombon meals a day ( whether in or out flight )plus some element of quick thrills ( 8 secs we suspect ) and laughter in their short 70 years ( some are longer ) with fellow men & women ( dun you just them ? ) on earth, and so you have neen blessed ! Its the old world that really inspires for much sweat & tears have been sown for our benefit , including the lucky talisman that you have been ordained as as among the chosen ones

Xiu Long Bao said...

The preview on Sunday + this write up painted a nice picture of this place.

(But the last one was a hairy one)

Selba said...

Beautiful snaps!

Have been to Srilanka three times but all were only for transit. One time the transit was almost 15 hours but too bad, didn't get the chance to see around.

Life for Beginners said...

You invoke the true spirit of the island nation so vividly, my brother... I wonder why haven't I been to the country which gave birth to poets like Sharanya Mannivanan yet.

Oh, surely nothing is lost in transition here... The feelings are very much there. :)

J2Kfm said...

eh u went all the way to Sri Lanka? what a place for transit. :)

no crabs?!

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

aiyoh u still got ur latest euro trip to blog abt and u r only in sri lanka??

550ml jar of faith said...

3 hours of pure magic and poetry... if that's being lost, I wouldn't ever want to be found.

fatboybakes said...

i hardly read ppl's holidays posts, but i found yours quite riveting!!! HOW STRANGE, i've seen the world sri lanka more times today than i have in the whole of last year put together.....
gorgeous, hairy berry, gorgeous.
makes me wanna hop on to a sri lankan airways flight to london now!

mimid3vils said...

That "hairy" hand is yours? :P

Live2Talk said...

i believe every country has its own unique and rich culture for us to discover ... good for you sweetie to discover life on the other side ^^

Tummythoz said...

Testing testing 123.
Noticed my last comment is MIA. In case this gets thru, why this time around your pictures look so 'textured'?

thenomadGourmand said...

Hey hey..way late i know but juz got back to blogging ;p.
So Happy New Year and keep those great pics & poetic posts coming!

Big Boys Oven said...

oh the buddhas are so awesome beautiful, something we may fine peace. oh! that is a lovely hand too! ;)

ling239 said...

nice pictures!!
so many temples....

Happy New Year, Nic!! ^_^

Nic (KHKL) said...

faye, yupe, the trip was good but too short. :( next time must go longer. i like travelling a lot! but must save $$$ to go lar. so expensive the air ticket these days.

backstreetgluttons, agree that all the cultures and religions are just mere symbols, a state of the living which really do nothing more than just make the world more diversed but perhaps not in such a good way sometimes with the wars and sufferings. the joys of life really begins with the first step and i've definitely been blessed with that joy so far so! of course, in the course of hunger and pains to save up the dough for the travel bread is something that i remember too..haha...the old world is indeed more inspiring than what tech brings of nothing but colours and unfeelings. among the chosen ones, i must be a wildcard. but i'm humbled by its presence. ;)

xiu long bao, thank kew! the preview coulda been much better if i was not hungry...hehehe...and btw, my hand so hairy meh? ;P

selba, thanks! i guess sri lanka is a popular transit, eh? well, do check out that place if you are there for transit again. :) omg, 15 hours in the airport can be very boring! i feel your pain!!!

kenny, wow, thanks for the compliment, bro! well, i'll really hafta explore deeper to actually understand what Sri Lanka is all about. the guide was telling me about the beautiful Kandy and the famous tea plantations! so tempted to go again!

haha, to be honest, i was really lost in that speeding car and cant even remember the names of some of the temples that i've been to! haha!

j2kfm, actually, Sri Lanka is a good place for transit cos it's just 3.5 hours away from kl, like taiwan etc. and i heard the duty free goods there are cheaper as well! ;)

haha, no crabs this time. but apparently, seafood is famous there! hmmm, must check for cheap tixs already..hehehe..

joe, hehehehehe...actually not euro lar. just one city...well, sri lanka was for transit from kl to london. good deal lar. well, an 8 hours transit might not be everyone's cup of tea though. to me, it was killing 2 birds with 1 stone! ;)

Nic (KHKL) said...

550ml jar of faith,
" if that's being lost, I wouldn't ever want to be found."
wow! that's so cool! indeed, it's a beautiful place, this. and i've not ventured into their beaches and hills. am looking forward to it again!

fatboybakes, woahhh! thank you for the compliment lar, dude! yeah, i think Sri Lanka got into some trouble with the rebels again, in the last few days. i was reading about it in the papers as well. too bad there are many news of chaos there cos it's really a nice tourist destination, me thinks. oh, and btw, sri lanka airways serves very good food! i think it's one of the best flight meals i had in recent memory.

mimi, yupe, yupe, my hand..hehehehhe....*malu*

live2talk, thanks sweetie! ;) to be honest, i enjoy exploring exotic places rather than big cities because it's unique and very much different from our daily lives. and when the food's good, it makes the trip even more special. ;)

tummythoz, hmmm, how come MIA ar? cos i dun moderate comments leh..hmmm..niways, lol on my own pics..hehehe...well, it was very dark when i arrived in colombo. not wanting to use flash, i had to resolve to higher ISO, hence the grainy images. i thought they look different, and changes are good sometimes. ;D

thenomadgourmand, welcome back! ;) happy new year to you too and thank you very much for your compliment. i'll do my best! ;)

bigboysoven, the statues were really inspiring and has a calming effect on the visitors. i think i can spend a whole day there, just appreciating the sights and sounds of the temple. ;)

ling239, thank you!!! :) yeah, Sri Lanka is famous for its temples. :) Happy new year to you too, ling239! ;)

sc said...

good way to capture this short but eventful transit..nice

wmw said...

Great trip, lovely pics! Happy New Year Nic!

fatboybakes said...

oops, typo error.. i've seen the WORD, not WORLD...sri lanka...
but not coz of the violence etc, but because of sri lankan crab...

Hazza said...

NOt unusual for visitors to have not tasted the true taste of a country. Not always a bad thing, if you dont know where to get the best food, you could end up with something really awful, or worse, Delhi Belly!

boo_licious said...

Happy New Year Hairy Berry! Sri Lanka looks fab, am sure London was very good too.

CUMI & CIKI said...

wow! lucky you .. and the photos in that temple are awesome..! looks like u had an iteresting dec to say the least ;)

Jun said...

aiya the fact tht u din hav a true sri lankan meal would be a good excuse to visit the place, ain't it? ;)

Keropok Man said...

This post a bit similar to Kenny's Batu Caves? The photos and scenes only i mean. hehe...

Lyrical Lemongrass said...

Enjoyed the writing very much. You definitely know how to make the most of your holiday. Too bad about the food. Maybe we can hunt down some Sri Lankan restaurants here, eh?

Nic (KHKL) said...

sc, thank kew! i hope to visit this place again...and get some tea leaves..hehehe

wmw, HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU TOO, WMW! ;)

fatboybakes, ohhhhhhh, sri lankan crabs...i havent had that in a long time. give me a piece of char siew or siew yoke, anytime! hahahaha!

hazza, agree! was glad i din get myself a delhi belly when i was in india last time. then again, i am still very curious about sri lankan cuisine. must try. ;)

boo, HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU TOO!! oh, london was good too. cold though..hehehe

cumi & ciki, oh, december has its ups and downs. mostly fun..hehe...and thank you so much for the compliment! ;)

jun, oh yeah, definitely on my wish list now! ;) but given the bad times ahead, i think i shd save up first lar..hehehe

keropokman, hahaha, you have a point. i've yet to read kenny's post thoroughly cos am pretty busy this week. will check it out again! but i think the difference is, his pictures are mostly on Hinduism while mine's more on Buddhism..hehehe...

lyrical lemongrass, thank you so much for the compliment, dear! ;) i am the type that cannot stand still when on vacation..hehehe...sri lanka restaurants? YES!!!! when? when? :)